Karen Annis of Sudbury, Ont., felt powerless and abandoned while caring for her husband Gordon during the last decade of his life.
“The system doesn’t consider whether or not the caregiver needs help,” Annis says.
As her husband became more ill with Alzheimer’s disease, Annis had little respite from the full-time job of his daily care.
Even daily errands, such as grocery shopping, became almost insurmountable tasks. If she left the house with her husband, he could not leave her sight for a second.The rising tide of dementia patients is destablizing hospital care in Canada. Dr. Chris Simpson, the president of the Canadian Medical Association, told a health conference in May, 2014.
As Gordon’s condition worsened, Annis was able to count on the services of a personal support worker, contracted by the Community Care Access Centre, for three hours a week. It was her only time to herself, and had to be spent running the errands she could not get done the rest of the week.
Annis could not depend on her family, who lived in other parts of the country, and did not want to trouble her friends with her personal troubles. “You don’t want to lose the last of your friends by talking about your problems, so you bottle that up,” she said.
The Alzheimer Society Sudbury Manitoulin offers support services for people with dementia and their caregivers.
Annis said it was the only place where she could talk about her problems openly and work though her own difficulties caring for her husband.
Annis’s situation is not unique.
Some 747,000 Canadians are living with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. By 2031, that number is expected to increase to 1.4 million.
The illness costs the Canadian economy an estimated $33 billion each year, not including millions of hours of unpaid care.
Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is a progressive and degenerative disease that causes thinking and memory to become significantly impaired. There is no cure. The handful of drugs to treat the disease only help decrease its effects and slow its progress.